[Milton-L] Haklyut, Plutarch, Sidney and the Osiris myth

Michael Bryson michael.bryson at csun.edu
Sun Jan 4 15:19:11 EST 2009

I think the question of a Gnostic element to (and/or
influence on) Milton's thinking is a very
interesting one. I am currently working on a project
which will take up that question, as part of a
larger work on Milton and negative theology,
neoplatonic thought, and the basic idea of the God
behind (or beyond) "God."

Most of what I am encountering in Milton criticism
simply dismisses the idea, however, regarding
Gnosticism as somehow antithetical to Milton's
thought (I've done the same--I made a comment, which
I now regret, along similar lines near the beginning
of The Tyranny of Heaven).  I think one of the key
questions is, if there is an influence, or even a
compatibility of concerns at work between Gnostic
thought and Milton's work, what particular branch of
"Gnosticism" might be the most likely candidate, and
through what sources (the great refuters like
Ireneaeus, Tertullian, Hyppolitus, etc., or
elsewhere?) might Milton be encountering these
ideas? And if the ideas are present and at work in
his writing, to what use is he putting them?

I also think the scenes with the old "anarch" Chaos
might be fruitfully explained either through, or
alongside of, explorations of Gnostic ideas.
Zoarastrian ideas (and their possible influence on
post-exilic Hebraic thought) come to mind as well.

Questions only at this point...

Michael Bryson

---- Original message ----

  Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2009 11:35:53 -0800 (PST)
  From: Horace Jeffery Hodges
  <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Haklyut, Plutarch, Sidney
  and the Osiris myth
  To: John Milton Discussion List
  <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>

  Interesting discussion on the scattering and       
  collecting myth of Isis and Osiris.                
  As for the passage in Milton's Areopagitica, while 
  it is obviously part of the interpretive tradition 
  concerning this myth, I recall, however, wondering 
  if the Gnostic myth lay in the background to       
  Milton's thinking -- the scattering and            
  regathering of the portion of Sophia lost in the   
  This raises the larger issue of possible Gnostic   
  influence upon Milton. I can never think of that   
  great realm of Chaos in Paradise Lost without      
  wondering if Milton was influenced by Manichaean   
  views on the eternity of darkness in conflict with 
  the light.                                         
  Has anyone written on this sort of thing in        
  Jeffery Hodges                                     

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